Why we need gender-responsive adaptation technologies
In an “ideal world” gender equity, diversity and social inclusion should be intrinsically embedded in our norms. Yet on the contrary, women and men are shaped by the societies (political, economic and social sphere) and expectations, in such a way that they are invariably different in terms of their access to resources, information, and experience with disasters.
While women face unique and disproportionate burdens as a result of climate change and natural disaster, they should not be merely considered as victims. Women are very important agents of change as they represent a primary resource for adaptation through their lived experience, responsibility, maternal instincts and strength. Therefore, sustainable adaptation must focus on gender parity and the role of women if it is to become successful for societies to thrive.
This years International Women's Day 2021 celebrated with the theme ‘Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world’ by propagating #ChoosetoChallenge. The day reminded us how women are mostly underrepresented in the decision making process, and that it is of utmost importance that they step up, and contribute to build back better. Simultaneously it is very important to realize that gender parity is important for communities to thrive. With existing social constructs and poverty dynamics leaving women ill-equipped to respond to impacts of climate change, how important are equity and social inclusion to achieve gender-responsive adaptation technology?
At the annual gobeshona global conference held from January 18-24th, 2021, International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD), Bangladesh Centre for Advanced Studies (BCAS) and the University of Manitoba jointly hosted a session titled- ‘Adaptation Technologies, Gender Equity and Social Inclusion.’ The session primarily focused on an ongoing three-year-long study called ‘Scaling climate change Adaptation Knowledge and Technologies for Empowering women, and to Enhancing social equity and disaster resilience (SAKTEE) in Bangladesh.’ The general purpose of the project is to come up with scale-appropriate, socially-transformative climate change adaptation technologies, enhance development planning capacity and policy-sensitivity at different institutional levels while supporting the empowerment of women and other disadvantaged segments of the population in Bangladesh. The session focused on the challenges of promoting gender responsive adaptation technologies in agriculture and water in coastal and haor regions of Bangladesh. It also highlighted the on-farm and agricultural sector innovations in times of climate adaptation and resilience-building together with the concepts of gender equity and new masculinities from a Colombian rural cooperative’s perspective.
The overarching messages from the session reiterated that climate change adaptation technologies need to involve knowledge and skills of vulnerable groups and people. Furthermore, it is important to identify the needs, priorities, and challenges in implementing women-friendly technologies. An effective sharing and recognition of distinct women roles like household and caring works can also help women participate in other productive activities. A ‘new masculinity’ approach can assure women a safer environment, gain confidence, become more productive and solve problems like gender inequality. By ensuring women’s access to resources and economic opportunity, we can ensure empowerment by creating solutions. Additionally, it should be acknowledged that the extra burden of unpaid care work, collecting drinking water, and household responsibilities are important things to consider to promote women empowerment and address the gendered effect of climate change adaptation.
However, it is crucial to understand that to ensure women empowerment and to promote leaders, interventions need to be taken at the grass-root level. Prof. It was highlighted that due to the lack of formal institutions to scale up climate innovation, at the local level and global level, with time, most localized interventions may disappear. While there is quite a good number of climate change adaptation innovations at local level already, knowledge generation and technological advancement is crucial. With most of the existing adaptation technologies following a top-down approach, lack of institution to manage or scale-up makes them highly susceptible to fall apart. In developing countries, intersectoral coordination, multi-scale understanding, communication and mainstreaming institutional framework can help empower women and increase the reach of adaptation technology to the grass-root level.
It is very important to realize that access to adaptation technologies should be at the core to promote equity, and help the poor and the vulnerable. Therefore it is crucial to invest more on women-friendly adaptive technologies at the grassroot level. Lastly, the gender dimension should be acknowledged, centralized and integrated at the strategic level to empower women and bring them to the forefront.
Rukhsar Sultana is working at ICCCAD as Research Officer.
Shahrin Mannan is working in ICCCAD as Senior Research Officer.